I’m sorry you…

In the early years of my marriage, when conflict arose, my husband would see that I was upset and say to me, “I’m sorry you got your feelings hurt.” In my naivety I thought he was truly sorry for what he had said or done that wounded my tender heart. We are vulnerable to those we love, yes? At some point it occurred to me that he never said, “I was wrong to have said that and I am sorry I hurt you.” He wasn’t apologizing at all. An apology is about taking responsibility for your own attitudes and/or behaviors. As I came to learn, he was seldom able to recognize when he was inflicting hurt on others. He felt their hurt was due to being weak mentally and emotionally.

I am grateful for those experiences, as difficult as they were, because I learned valuable lessons that made me more aware of my own attitudes and actions. I came to understand that I am capable of wounding another person and that I am responsible for that behavior, even when it is not my intention to do so.

In Sanskrit, the word for inflicting harm or doing violence to another is himsa. Yoga philosophy teaches us to live without doing harm or violence, to embrace ahimsa.

Recognizing my own attitudes and behaviors is, of course, a process. Awareness is the key to knowing when I have done harm and when I haven’t. Awareness is also the key to making amends in loving and honest ways. A supervising manager that I worked for years ago taught me a priceless lesson for life. I wasted precious hours and days trying to fix an error I had made because I did not want to admit to her that I had made a mistake. I never figured it out and ended up having to go to her with it. I was embarrassed by the mistake and by having to admit how long I had been trying to fix it. She had me close the door and sit down. My heart was pounding. She looked at me and quietly said, “Catherine, I don’t expect you to know everything. You have wasted valuable time on this. In the future, just come to me and ask for help. Now, let me show you what needs to be done.” At the end of our meeting, I thanked her and apologized for not coming to her sooner. I walked out feeling free to be wrong!

Saying “I messed up” is powerful. In personal relationships, more is at stake. So finding this level of self-awareness and honesty is even more powerful. That experience from my youth made me very aware of how I take responsibility, how I apologize when I have injured another. Which would you rather hear:

“I know my words were hurtful to you and I will be more gentle in the future. I am not always kind when my emotions are running high.”

OR

“You are so sensitive and you get your feelings hurt so easily; I am sorry your feelings are hurt.”

Which one releases you to deal with your own hurt and let it heal? Which one shows that I am taking responsibility and am willing to learn and grow in the way I relate to others?

Enlightenment does not mean it is impossible to hurt me. Enlightenment doesn’t mean I will never again wound another person. Enlightenment means that true awareness will enable us to deal with any harm done honestly, lovingly, and compassionately.

May you be blessed with gentle awareness and the ability to speak your truth with love and compassion for yourself and others.

Namaste.

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Practical Yoga

Hatha Yoga is one of the most practical tools for maintaining balance physically,mentally, and emotionally. And you don’t even have to do the asanas, postures, perfectly to reap its benefits!

For example, when facing one of life’s “battles,” in a relationship, at work, or in your finances, do warrior. Warrior opens the heart and draws the mind into the core of your body. Breathe to your belly slowly and evenly and remember that your strength and wisdom come from within. Take 3-5 breaths on each side, longer if you prefer. Affirmations are useful as you hold. Inhaling I breathe; exhaling I have courage (or I am strong).

Triangle is the posture of openness. Remember, you don’t have to put your forward hand on the floor to gain its benefits. Do triangle at the place where your body feels open in the shoulders and chest, even if your hand goes no lower than your knee. This asana is helpful in relationships. When holding, bring your awareness to the heart center and soften your rib cage. Breathe slowly and evenly and use an affirmation. Inhaling I breathe; exhaling my heart opens to love.

In the natural flow of life, we experience loss in many ways. Grief follows and can be embraced for its ability to enhance compassion and wisdom in our lives. Child pose creates a time and space that feels safe and warm, especially when done over a yoga bolster under a blanket. You can cover your head with the blanket as well if you feel the need to fully withdraw into the fetal position. Again, awareness comes to the breath as it expands into the abdomen and rib cage. Feel your body as it moves with your breath. Let the energy that wants to collect in tightness flow instead. Grief is an intense emotion but letting it flow lightens it. It may leak out your eyes in the form of tears; this is a good thing. Studies have shown that the chemicals in tears change depending on the cause of the tears. The body knows what to let go of!

Hatha yoga is a practical tool. Let yourself feel each asana in a whole new way. Form and alignment are important yet they are not everything. Their purpose is to release energy to flow well and easily and to protect from injury in the practice. The purpose of yoga goes way beyond those things. Open your mind, your body, your heart to new ways of experiencing your practice. Keep it simple and who knows what might unfold.

May our minds and hearts be open. May we continue to unfold into the awareness of True Self. May we live in ease as we discover our peace within.

Namaste.

The Energy of Expression

How do you manifest and express yourself in the world? Does this manifestation and expression align with your True Nature, your True Self or Soul?

These questions are in my awareness because of the recent transition I created that moved me to another state, brought my decision to take a hiatus from teaching weekly classes, and presented me with the opportunity to evaluate everything from my wardrobe to what I want to do with the rest of my life.

In hatha yoga we seek balance throughout our energy system which includes our physical, mental, emotional, spiritual self. The chakra system helps us to understand how energy flows and localizes in the physical body. Balance in the flow of energy is key to the attainment of wholeness, well-being, and enlightenment.

The fifth chakra, at the base of the throat and back of the neck, is the focal point of the energy of self-expression or how we manifest ourselves in the world. The more balanced we are, the more clearly we can manifest True Self. One of Shakespeare’s characters declared “The truth will out!” Oh yes, it will. Most of us know that we put on our best behavior when we first meet someone or take a new job. The average person can maintain that for about three months and then opinions begin to be expressed more freely and habits become more obvious. Someone working very hard might be able to maintain their best behavior for six months, but that is rare and totally exhausting.

Wouldn’t it be easier and more real to live from our best consistently? Of course it would, and this, dear hearts, is the path of enlightenment in a nut shell.

So, a quick look at how to use the flow of energy to achieve a truer and healthier manifestation of True Self.

Chakra 1:  This is the root chakra at the base of the spine. It is the energy of being grounded, connected to the earth. It is the base or foundation of the system we want in balance. The color of the energy here is red.

Chakra 2:   Located between the pubic bone and the naval, this is the energy center of relationships (families, communities of all kinds), our connection with others. The color of the energy here is orange.

Chakra 3:   This energy center is behind the naval and is the home of the self and the will. This is where we know ourselves. The color of the energy here is yellow.

Chakra 4:   This is the heart center and holds the Love that comes to us from All That Is as well as the Love that we manifest to the world. The color of the energy here is green.

Chakra 5:   This is the throat chakra as mentioned above. The energy of self-expression emanates out from here, not just verbally but in all forms of expression. The color of the energy here is blue.

Chakra 6:   This energy center is also known as the third eye. This is the energy center of personal truth, of how we see and understand the flow of life. It is a portal to higher truth and awareness. The color of the energy here is the soft, clear purple of an amethyst quartz crystal.

Chakra 7:   This is the crown chakra at the top of the head. It is the energy that connects us to the Source of All That Is. This is where we experience our Oneness with All That Is. The energy of this center is pure white light.

If I desire for the energy of self-expression at Chakra 5, the throat, to be clear, balanced, and a true manifestation of mySelf, I will create balance from below (1,2,3,4) and above (6,7). I do this in every level of my being and awareness: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual.

My foundation (chakra 1) is solid and I feel grounded.

My relationships (chakra 2) are healthy and growing. I attract healthy people who are of like-mind.

My awareness of Self (chakra 3) continues to unfold. I know mySelf and live mindfully from that awareness.

My heart (chakra 4) is open to the Love that flows to me from All That Is and that Love flows from me to others.

My manifestation of True Self (chakra 5) is clear and true as I live from the Love and Compassion that I Am.

My Personal Truth (chakra 6) comes from my level of awareness and enlightenment, which continues to unfold.

My oneness with All That Is (chakra 7) is the source of my wholeness, balance, and truth.

Just as my body functions every moment of every day to maintain its balance through the process of homeostasis, my True Self continues to unfold into enlightened expression of the Oneness that I Am.

Namaste.

Control or Release?

This is so often the question, isn’t it? Which is more powerful – to be in control of a situation or to release control of that situation? It seems obvious that the “right” answer is to release control. Most of us have or are dealing with our control issues. It is easier than it used to be as it is such a common thing to discuss now.

In the path of enlightened awareness, the motivation comes from a deep place within. Intellectually, I am very clear that control simply doesn’t work even though it may appear to in the short term. Self-control is most useful in creating a healthier flow of life, especially until I grow up in some specific area of my life. Once my awareness level catches up with the heart desire to change a behavior, there is little or need to exercise self-control because I am able to flow with that desire in a very natural way.

As with many healing insights, I begin to have a breakthrough when I recognize that the nature of what I am looking at is yet another one of the paradoxes of this human life experience. Power appears to come through the ability to be in the position of control which often manifests in arrogance. In spite of this, I find the most powerful leaders are those who come from a place of humility and deep respect for themselves and others. They know they have the final say but they are willing to listen and learn. In return, those who interact with them trust their right to lead and their ultimate decisions.

How does this manifest in one’s personal life? I don’t have time to write a book this morning so I’ll simply offer a few thoughts. Control manifests in so many ways it boggles the mind. It can be outright, arrogant, and demanding or it can be subtle, deceptive, and manipulative. None of these things lead to true and lasting relationships. None of these things nurture a person’s soul or result in a loving and compassionate expression of self. These things can create a false sense of security in this wild and wooly world. I get it. However, I do not resonate with it.  It took me a long while but I have come to see that trying to control myself or other people or circumstances stops the flow of creative energy in my life. For me, release has proved to be more powerful than any other approach.

Yoga and meditation are my primary tools to develop the ability to release into the flow of my life. How do you respond when you have shared a struggle you are having with someone and they say, “You just have to let that go.” Really? Like I can do that when the pain is up and my emotions are screaming to be heard. Yeah, I’ll just let that go and move on. Isn’t that called stuffing your emotions? When I tried that behavior on, it affected my physical health on a frightening level. In yoga I have learned to release into my body by feeling it resist, breathing into those muscles or joints and inviting them to release into my breath. It works. Then I learned the same techniques work with emotions and mental gymnastics…..as long as I am willing to experience those things as I have learned to experience physical resistance. I must make a space for those emotions and those meandering thoughts. I must be with them long enough to breathe into them and then invite them to release into my breath. In allowing them to exist with awareness, I allow them to fulfill their purpose and dissipate.

This is not always a comfortable process but my yoga practice isn’t always comfortable either. I still do it because I have learned that the end result is well worth the discomfort. My emotional practice isn’t always comfortable but the end result is so freeing, so comforting and self-nurturing that I embrace it fully. As with hatha yoga, the more faithful I am with this practice, the more quickly and easily I move through to its rewards.

Release brings me into the natural flow of life which is much more fun and relaxing.

Aum shanti. Namaste.